On April 28, 2020, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an Order directing county courts to restore more operations, while maintaining their priority to handle critical matters and protect the health and safety of court personnel and the public.
The Court’s previous orders regarding dispossession of property were extended until today, May 11, when they ended. However, there may be restraints on some actions related to the dispossession of property imposed by other authorities, including Congress and the federal CARES Act.
“While the Court has extended the judicial emergency through June 1, 2020, in order to provide President Judges with authority to address varying local conditions, we recognize the need to move beyond emergency matters to a much broader range of court functions. We do so, however, giving priority to our most critical functions and in a manner consistent with public health and safety,” said Pennsylvania Supreme Court Chief Justice Tom Saylor.
Additionally, the Court’s Order provides the following:
· Both criminal and civil jury trials remain suspended and will be scheduled for a later date;
· Self-represented litigants or attorneys who believe the enforcement of time deadlines pose a danger to health and safety may file a certification with the court for consideration;
· For proceedings that must be held in person, appropriate safety measures, consistent with federal and state executive guidance, should be employed. All courts are encouraged to consider deciding matters on the papers and/or to conduct proceeding through the use of advanced communication technologies, to the extent constitutional requirements may be satisfied;
· Attorneys are encouraged to conduct depositions remotely;
· Deposition of and required appearances for doctors, nurses, or other healthcare professionals substantially involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic are suspended through June 1;
· Suspension of time calculations and deadlines outlined in the Court’s previous Orders ended today, May 11, 2020;
· Prior orders related to payments to Magisterial District Courts ended today, May 11, 2020;
· Court leaders must implement and maintain procedures that limit potential COVID-19 exposure, including restricting in-person access to court facilities;
· Subject to constitutional limitations, any state or local rule that impedes a judge’s ability to utilize available technologies to limit in-person contact is suspended through June 1, 2020; and
· Court filings should be by means other than in-person delivery whenever possible.
All hearings related to civil trials, including pretrial conferences, discovery motions, and other conferences, are either postponed or must be conducted remotely. Any non-emergency matter requiring the presence of an attorney or litigant has been postponed indefinitely to be rescheduled at a later date.
In all state courts, the use of remote communication by phone or videoconferencing for court proceedings is encouraged. Cases, where remote communication is neither possible nor constitutionally permissible, will be delayed.
According to the Order, essential functions for the Superior and Commonwealth courts include only the following matters:
· Election matters;
· Children’s Fast Track matters;
· Emergency filings; and
· Matters or functions deemed an emergency.
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